Review: Shelf Theme from The Theme Foundry

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The Theme Foundry’s latest tumblog theme, Shelf, was designed by Jon Hicks and sports a photo-real, 3D design. Attempted by the wrong people, the words “photo-real” and “3D” used together when describing a website design could lead to disaster. In this case, the end result is very pleasant and just works.

But a quality theme is more than just looks. It’s about how it functions, how easy it is to use, and what purpose it can have for the blogger. In other words: is Shelf worth taking off the shelf and putting to use?

Let’s dig in and find out.

Shelf Theme review gallery

A theme like this is tough to describe, because it is very different. So before we get started, check out The Theme Foundry’s demo, or our quick hands on video with the theme right here:

Okay, so now we get it, right? Cool.

Easiest time installing a Shelf I’ve ever had

I have one of those homes where I assembled 90% of the furniture in it. I assembled my desk, my coffee table, and my bed. Take my advice: assembling beds will melt your face off.

I only bring this up to say that the process of setting up Shelf is much, much more pleasant. I installed Shelf on my local WordPress installation, and set to work playing with it.

Shelf uses a custom options screen which is the first thing you’ll see upon activating the themeโ€”a nice touch actually, and one that more theme developers should consider. Forwarding someone over to your options page after activation might not be right for every theme out there, but for themes more heavily dependent on initial settings it’s a nice little push in the right direction.

Custom “Tumblogs” taxonomy

Shelf employs a custom taxonomy system for the tumblogging feature, allowing you to tag and categorize your posts freely. This is a great example of doing it right. Let’s run down the six tumblog types that Shelf supports out of the box:

  • Article
  • Image
  • Link
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Quote

Each of these tumblog types can be entered in a custom QuickPress-like box from the Dashboard. I actually didn’t notice this box until I was almost finished playing around with it. I don’t feel qualified to speak on it, though, since I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the standard QuickPress box. It’s cool that they thought of it though.

Tumbling Microblogging Tumblogging
Posting with Shelf

The actual posting process is pretty straightforward. Check the box for the type of content you’re adding, then jump straight to their custom meta box called “Tumblog Custom Settings”. There is an entry field for each type of content you can add.

It seems unnecessary to say it, but I will: this theme looks very good. I mean, it’s a Jon Hicks design. Game over.

This was actually one of the things I was most interested in seeing executed. Adding special kinds of content is always a fun challenge, because without some instruction to the user on how they should enter their content, all sorts of formatting issues could pop up on the front end. These fields take care of that problem, and using them I always felt like I knew what was going to end up on the blog.

One quick side note: Since the bulk of the content you’re adding here will be in custom fields (although you can also add content as a normal post) keep in mind that switching themes in the future might mean that some of your content won’t display anymore. Just a heads up.

Classy, beautiful tumblog design

It seems unnecessary to say it, but I will: this theme looks very good. I mean, it’s a Jon Hicks design. Game over.

Just look at this:

Yup. It’s good. See our gallery for more on the design of the theme.

Themes that give you ideas

Some of the most interesting WordPress themes anymore are the ones that are serving niches, things that likely weren’t thought of back in the days when weblog was slowly becoming blog. Niche themes really shine when they offer an idea you hadn’t considered before.

Shelf is a theme that gives ideas, but in a different way than some themes. It’s so interesting, so intriguing, that you want to find a reason to use it. There has to be a justification for grabbing this theme, you think. Whether there ends up being a great reason for using it or not, at least your content will look great sitting on this particular Shelf.

WPCandy rated this 5 mints

This review was completed using a pre-release copy of Shelf, provided to WPCandy for review purposes.

6 thoughts on “Review: Shelf Theme from The Theme Foundry

    • I suppose it’s a niche theme that might introduce its own issues here and there, but I didn’t run across any slow scrolling.

      • I’m on Firefox 3.6.8 on Win 7.

        I’m not saying it’s ugly, it’s just that scrolling in Firefox isn’t as smooth as in Webkit browsers.

        But then again, many times, JS animations are far slower in Firefox than in Chrome/Safari. Hoping Firefox 4 will fix that ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. I bought this theme for my wordpress.com blog and absolutely LOVE the way I’m able to customize certain features. I am however, having an issue with using the audio component. For whatever reason, whenever I insert the audio file, it places the mp3 player so that when you view the actual post, that shows in addition to the one included in the audio feature (does that make sense?). Furthermore, the player embedded in the audio feature isn’t playing. Can anyone offer a suggestion? Thanks!

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